A look at what’s driving businesses to identify more ways to work together

Many businesses want to create and nurture a workplace environment in which both leaders and employees share ideas and work collaboratively to provide a great product or service to customers. That first step when you gather everyone together in a room and talk about what can be gained by working together is fairly simple. The challenge is to make it last and have a culture in which employees seek input from each other and engage in collaboration that leads to better results.

Technology is a tool that can serve as an important component to reaching this desired outcome.

“Today’s successful businesses embrace a collaborative work environment and understand how to use technology to foster that collaboration,” says Kevin Conmy, regional vice president at Comcast Business. “Working together with colleagues, partners and customers gives companies the agility to drive innovation and success.”

Smart Business spoke with Conmy about how to make collaboration an integral part of your company.

What is contributing to the push toward collaborative work environments?

There are a number of trends that are driving businesses to pursue a stronger level of teamwork in their workforce. Social media and cloud computing are obviously two of the biggest factors since they allow people to be more accessible no matter where they may be. As these tools become ever more commonplace and usability improves, it will continue to reduce the time it takes to learn the ins and outs of a new device or platform.

From a customer standpoint, expectations become much higher with regard to the quality of the product or service you provide when you’re effectively using technology. If you put yourself in the shoes of being a customer and you know that your vendors have all these new tools at their disposal, it only makes sense that their level of expectation will increase.

Add to that the fact that the world continues to get smaller and the pressure customers feel to remain competitive, and the need for another voice in the room as you plot your strategy becomes clear.

How do you turn collaboration into innovation?

You need to take the goals you have in mind as a business and put them on the table for discussion. That ‘table’ has to be more than just the one surrounded by chairs in your conference room. Use the technology tools and social networking mindset of today’s employee and change what it means to work together. Don’t limit yourself to the time on the calendar that everyone can get together for a face-to-face meeting.

To truly drive innovation, you must make data available to more people in the organization and then implement solutions to harness the collective knowledge, experience and communities that social networks foster.

Be willing to be creative in how those solutions are implemented. Successful organizations will take the steps to streamline their operational environment and equip employees, customers and partners with the tools to innovate.

If you’re a restaurant owner with high school and college-age wait staff and kitchen help, you have a team of people that is probably more connected to the social media world than you. Use that knowledge to tweet out new offerings at your restaurant or to post new menu items on your Facebook page. Learn about search engine optimization (SEO) and what it takes to lure new customers to your business. You learn something and your employees become more engaged in the growth of your business.

How do these processes improve efficiency?

It is easier to keep things moving in today’s world without being together in the same physical space by using tools such as online meetings, document storage and shared calendars.

You can easily protect sensitive information and limit access to those who need it. Enabling high productivity requires a strategic approach to collaboration. Successful organizations will take the steps to streamline their operational environment and equip their employees, customers and partners with the tools to innovate.

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